Genealogy Research Identifies Faces in Historic Murals

By Diane Haddad

Genealogy detective work and crowdsourcing, led by our local Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper, solved a hometown history mystery: the identity of factory workers in 16 huge mosaic murals in Cincinnati’s Union Terminal train station, now the home of local history museums and the Cincinnati History Library and Archives. (Fourteen of the murals were moved to the airport when the train station concourse was demolished, and nine of those will be moved again, when the airport terminal they’re in is demolished.)

The murals, created by Winold Reiss in 1933, depict industrial scenes of unnamed workers in unnamed factories. The main part of the article tells how the newspaper, with help from local history buffs and readers, identified the workers using the artist’s reference photos, Union Terminal financial records, genealogical records, interviews, and nearly 3,000 emailed suggestions.

Of course I turned to the worker profiles right away in hopes of finding a relative. I didn’t, but it was fascinating to read about each man and the work he did, and to compare his image in the mural to the reference photo. You can read their stories and see the murals and photos here.